Smorgasbord Bookshelf – Meet the Authors 2022 – Personal Recommendations – #Dystopian #Elderly Alex Craigie, #Shortstories D.L. Finn, #Poetry Elizabeth Gauffreau

In this first feature for the Smorgasbord Bookshelf I am sharing authors whose books I have read and can personally recommend along with one of my reviews for their books.

The first author today has written books that hit close to home in many respects.  Alex Craigie is a brilliant observer of life and human interactions.

Meet Alex Craigie

Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power.

Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back.

When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.

Trish has had three books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. Both books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the NHS at its heart.

Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon.

Books by Alex Craigie

My review for Someone Close to Home February 15th 2022

This fast paced thriller plays into the fears of most of us. Those where we end up incapacitated, unable to communicate in the hands of strangers, some of whom may not have our best interests at heart. It is a page turner as the reader becomes engaged in a race against time and the danger that awaits.

The story is set in the present and the daily anquish of Megan who suffered a stroke and has been placed in an understaffed and cheap care home, where support for recovery is not on the menu. As she lies in a bed, dependent on a variety of carers, some dedicated and some sadistic, Megan also has all the time in the world to reflect on her life from a childhood marred by tragedy and manipulation, through a successful classical musical career, a love that brought light into her life and the disastrous outcome of a doomed marriage to a narcistic and violent bully.

These two timelines have converged to bring Megan to a place where past wrongs by others result in her torment and intended death at the hands of an avenging psychopath

The author has created memorable and relateable characters. Your heart goes out to Megan as she is swept through life on the whims and cruel intentions of others, willing her to find the strength to escape the chains that are used to keep her under control. The evil in both men and women who hold the keys to those chains is chilling and malignant, and the entitlement and disdain shown to her by those who should love and nurture her is heartrending.

Alex Craigie is the master of suspense and maintains a pace that is breathless with the reader turning the pages anxious to find a glimmer of hope for the doomed Megan.

Horror and fantasy novels that portray monsters and evil are easier to read as they can be dismissed as imaginary… This thriller is however definitely close to home in many respects and it makes it all the more compelling a read.  I can highly recommend.

Alex Craigie, Buy: Amazon UK – And: Amazon US – Follow Alex: Goodreads – Alex Craigie via: Facebook

The next author is D.L. Finn and I have read one of her books for adults and her collection of shortstories that are great for adults and children alike.. a versatile writer who engages her reader from the first page to the last.

Meet D.L. Finn

D.L. Finn is an independent California local who encourages everyone to embrace their inner child. She was born and raised in the foggy Bay Area, but in 1990 relocated with her husband, kids, dogs, and cats to the Sierra foothills in Nevada City, CA. She immersed herself in reading all types of books, but especially loved romance, horror, and fantasy. She always treasured creating her own reality on paper. Finally, being surrounded by towering pines, oaks, and cedars, her creativity was nurtured until it bloomed. Her creations vary from children’s books, young adult fantasy, and adult paranormal romance to an autobiography with poetry. She continues on her adventures with an open invitation for her readers to join her.

A selection of  books by D.L. Finn

My review Tree Fairies October 2021

This is a lovely set of three stories that introduce us to two children whose camping adventure would lead to a discovery of ancient wisdom and the need to participate in a life- long guardianship of a wonderful forest.

Not everyone believes in fairies, but even those who are sceptical, will find themselves engaging with the magical cast of characters the author has created.

There are parallels in the history of the fairies, to the way humans have split from the old ways to seek their fortunes in the cities. Those who left the forest generations before, have lost the respect and appreciation of the power of nature and its gifts.

The stories span several years, the involvement of the two children and their family, and their close relationship with the fairies over generations is heartwarming.

With the threat of an ecological disaster, ancient wisdom, magic and modern technology must combine to save the forest.

The stories will enchant children and young teens and even oldies who like to be reminded of childhood fairy and adventure stories.

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Follow D.L. Finn: Goodreads – Connect to D.L. Finn – Website: D.L. Finn Author – Facebook: D.L. Finn Author – Twitter: @dlfinnauthor

I have read both books by Elizabeth Gauffreau and can highly recommend them both. A novel set in the days of the vaudeville and a poignant poetry collection beautifully written.

Meet Elizabeth Gauffreau

Elizabeth Gauffreau writes fiction and poetry with a strong connection to family and place. She holds a B.A. in English from Old Dominion University and an M.A. in English/Fiction Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Assistant Dean of Curriculum & Assessment for Champlain College Online, where she is an Associate Professor. Her fiction and poetry have been published in literary magazines and several themed anthologies. Her debut novel, Telling Sonny, was published by Adelaide Books in 2018. Liz lives in Nottingham, New Hampshire with her husband.

Books by Elizabeth Gauffreau

My review for the collection 13th November 2021.

As we get older we lose more of those we love, and grief is one of the hardest of life’s experiences to comes to term with. Brief eulogies that express love and respect for a person are often more meaningful than longer testaments to their life.

This is the case in Elizabeth Gauffreau’s collection of syllabic poetry. Brief glimpses into the lives of her parents as they met and married, followed by early childhood memories and the teen years.

The wonderful early family images set the scene and the words bring them to life. They are emotionally engaging and evoke the reader’s own memories and also regrets for lost opportunities to share more moments with those no longer with us. For example:

27 Edgewood Road

clearing out the house
entering forbidden rooms
hidden photographs
baby picture never seen
her pride in me now showing.

A collection for reflection and enjoyment.

Read the reviews and buy: Amazon US – and : Amazon UK – Read more reviews and follow Elizabeth: Goodreads – Twitter: @LGauffreau


Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books… thanks Sally.


Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The #Travel Column Rewind with D.G. Kaye – Puerto Vallarta, #Mexico Part Two – What to pack, Tipping, Online Guide, Excursions, Renting, Property guidelines

Welcome to the next of the posts in my Travel Column series. The world is opening up and in the coming posts I will be sharing destinations that are welcoming visitors. For this post I am sharing my winter destination of choice – Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.

There are of course restrictions in place in Puerto Vallarta and to find out more about these and what to expect in terms of access to beaches, restaurants and outdoor attractions please check Visti Puerto Vallarta website

If not this winter… I hope that my experiences in this lovely holiday destination will encourage you to book for next year.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico Part Two

 Last time in my column, I shared a bit of history on beautiful Puerto Vallarta as well as some tips on dining, beaches, and things to do. For this month’s edition I’m going to share some tips based on my personal experience on notable places to visit while there, what to pack, caveats of renting a condo, and protocol on some of the Mexican customs.

What to pack?

Pack for summer temps. Keep in mind that nights can be breezy so you may want to throw in a few long-sleeved Tees and/or a light sweater.

As usual, I bring too many shoes and basically end up wearing the same two pairs when going out. During the day you will live in flip flops or sandals. When walking any distances, and when walking downtown you will want to have comfortable shoes on. Trust me! The downtown zone still has cobble stone roads. Heels aren’t going to be your friend there. I acquired a new affection for FitFlops after buying a pair to take with me before I left. I plan on getting a 2nd pair and that’s all I really need to wear out. They are ultra-comfortable and very stylish, they even have styles with bling – and that’s good enough for me, lol. Of course, you will want to have a pair of sneakers too.

I mostly live in my bathing suit and cover-up by day and a sundress or a pair of capris and a top by night. I don’t see many people wearing long pants even at night so don’t fill your suitcases with them as they will likely just be taking up space and never worn. The jeans I wear on the airplane are the only long pants I take.

Don’t forget to pack your favorite pillow. If you’re anything like me and are fussy about your pillows, you will be happy you brought yours. See if you can find a smaller travel version of your favorite pillow like I’ve found, which will take up less space in your bags. And don’t forget the essentials: sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.

Keep up to date with what is happening in Puerto Vallarta online

There is a very informative newspaper online at Vallarta Today – which carries local stories but also recommended dining, medical information, activities such as festivals and real estate. It also shared up to date travel advisories and well worth checking regularly.

Here is a stunning look at Puerta Vallarta courtesy of Stunning Videos


Like anywhere else we travel, tipping is encouraged. Mexicans don’t make nearly the wages we make in North America as their cost of living is much lower. Don’t forget to tip your taxi driver – especially when you go grocery shopping and take a cab back home where the driver will happily load and unload your groceries for you. Even in the grocery stores it’s customary to tip the ‘bagger’ of your groceries because they aren’t paid. I usually give them a 10 or 20 Pesos.

When it comes receiving your bill in a restaurant, there are two important things to remember: When you’re ready for the bill, you must ask your server for it as they consider it rude to just leave a bill in front of you, not wanting to signal it’s time for you to leave. Also, check your bill thoroughly. Some establishments have taken to automatically applying a tip on your bill. If you don’t take notice you will be double tipping.

Don’t forget to leave a little something for the maids. They work hard and make a menial salary.

Where to Shop for Groceries

Soriana’s is upper PV’s main supermarket, offering a wide array of products complete with a bakery, meat, and cheese counters. You will also find a pharmacy and some beach and pool toys and clothing at the back of their stores. Further down in town you will find another chain of Mega Super stores as their other chain of grocery stores.

Besides those mentioned, many people, including myself shop at Walmart grocery section. And recently, they’ve opened a new huge supermarket called La Comer, where you can find items of specialty that are a bit harder to find in other grocery stores.

Of course, shopping wouldn’t be complete without the famous Costco and Sam’s Club outlets. Typically, we go to Costco’s once a month to load up on staples like toilet paper, paper towels, cases of water and soda. and of course, all the other stuff we find that were never on our list. The Costco we shopped at was conveniently, a 20 – minute walk from our condo. They also have a lovely section of prepared foods for those days when one doesn’t feel like cooking or going out. Don’t forget to pick yourself up some delicious meat or fish there if you’re up to cooking. The beef in Puerto Vallarta is superb, and so is the chicken and the vast array of fish available.

Drinking Water

The drinking water has been approved and deemed safe for drinking for some time now – but that doesn’t mean you should be drinking it. Most restaurants and hotels have a water filtration system installed. But for those places that don’t, even if water is deemed safe, it’s the old pipes that contribute to contaminating the water.

When out and about and off the beaten path, always ask about the water. A good indicator is ice cubes with a hole in them signifies purified. Better yet, when in doubt, drink bottled water.

In the condo we stayed in, you can order big jugs of water from the concierge desk in the lobby. The bellman brings it right up to our unit and it costs a mere 30 Pesos – equivalent of two dollars. And I then tip him another dollar for bringing it up to our suite. We were even luckier in our friend’s condo we stayed in January, they had a filtration system in their condo with fresh water out of the kitchen sink and fridge. I’d pour a cup into a glass to brush my teeth with. One can never be too safe!

Exchanging Money

When in Puerto Vallarta, you don’t need any other currency than the Mexican Peso. Although they will accept US dollars, it’s best to save those for bargaining because you won’t get the best rate for those dollars in supermarkets or restaurants. Don’t be thinking you have to buy a ton of Pesos either before you leave home. Use the bank machines! And when I say bank machines, I mean the ATMs you’ll find inside the banks. All you need to bring is your bank card from home and approximately $100 dollars in Pesos you should purchase at home at your bank for incidentals such as: taxi fare, snacks, a drink or maybe even a meal to have on you until you get to that bank machine.

When you buy foreign currency at home, you will get a lesser rate than you’ll receive buying your Pesos in the bank machine. I stress ‘the bank’s ATM’ because using a store’s ATM or that of any in a hotel lobby, you will not get the best rate as the bank rate and the service charges can be steep.

For example: One year I made the mistake of buying $500 worth of Pesos at my bank before I left, and I got a rate of slightly over 12 Pesos for a Canadian dollar. The bank rate I got after visiting the bank machine in PV was 15 Pesos for a dollar! For Americans, the rate has been hovering around 19 and change Pesos for your dollar. Many restaurants will display the rate you’ll receive on your American dollars. Recently there, that rate was 15 to 16 Pesos for a dollar if you paid in US dollars. That’s a huge loss of value. On the same token, you will find many money exchange booths in your daily travels, again, you will receive less value there too when exchanging your foreign dollars.

I’m armed and ready for this year’s holiday back in PV as I bought us $200 worth of Pesos to take home with us in preparation for next year.

Thinking of renting a condo in PV?

If you’re interested in renting a place for your vacation in PV, I’m sharing my list of how to go about the process, what to look for, and things to beware of:

There are plenty of online sites where one can find places for rent in PV, and many property managers who look after several properties can also be found on various websites. But if you’re not familiar with where to begin, my recommendation is to look on VRBO and Air BnB.

One thing that is almost certain is that all rental prices are expected in US dollars. Depending on which service you book through, prices will vary so it’s important to do your homework and check similar offers for similar same sized properties around same locations.

Every place for rent seems to have their own different terms of contract. Some will ask for 50% down and the balance due 2 months prior to arrival, some will only require 20% deposit and balance payable on arrival (those are the only terms I rent a place with), while some offer rebates if you must cancel and some don’t.

It’s important to do an internet check when renting to make sure you’re renting from someone reputable. It’s not difficult to type a name of someone or the name of a condo complex in a Google search bar and take it from there. TripAdvisor, Yelp, and Yahoo are also great places to check reviews from previous fellow travelers who will share their experiences. Personally, I prefer renting directly from owner as opposed to a manager, but there are exceptions. I like to call that person to gather information rather than rely solely on what’s written on the description. This also allows me to get a good feel of the person I intend to rent from.

Make sure you ask about ‘added fees’ such as: security deposit required, clean-up fees, and oddly, some funky other mysterious fees I’ve seen around. If someone is paying for an ad, they should have photos and a good description of the property and surrounding areas.

In Mexico, it seems that electricity is often a separate charge on top of the rental fee. Rarely will you find it included in the price. Depending on the honesty of the person you’re renting from you’ll end up paying anywhere from $50 US per month to exorbitant money grab rates as high as $200 a month. Always ask!

Ask about the rules of the property.

• Do they allow pets?
• Do they allow smoking?
• What are the check in and check out times?
• Ask if there’s a mini safe where you can keep your valuables and passports.
• What amenities does the property offer?
• Is there a swimming pool and lounge chairs?
• Is there a beach bar on premises?
• What kind of security does the property offer?
• What kind of amenities does the unit offer inside?
• Does it have pots and pans and dishes?
• Is there a TV or 2 and WiFi?
• Are there blinds or draperies on the windows to block out the hot morning or afternoon sun heating up the place?
• Is there a pull-out couch?
• Does the place have ceiling fans?

Ceiling fans are the best. Units with them rarely require us to use air conditioning, which of course chugs up the electricity bill. And lastly, if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to ask about the views from the unit.

Most places come with standard staples such as: toaster, microwave, coffeemaker, and a debatable amount of dishes and cookware. Every unit is set up according to the owner’s tastes. Some owners actually use their units in-between renters, and those units are usually more equipped with extras. Others buy them for investment to rent out and aren’t too concerned with what’s not in there.

On a recent vacation to PV, we spent January in a gorgeous condo owned by friends of ours who live in the big city of Guadalajara. We met them last year at the pool, became friends and before the trip ended, they invited us to rent from them as they’d never previously rented out their place before. Their place was luxury all the way from the million- dollar view to first class amenities.

In February we had booked another unit in same complex because our friends had previously rented out February. We rented from the woman we’d rented from the previous year, knowing we were going to pay a little too much because we were late renting, and people are greedy. Suffice it to say, the unit left a lot to be desired – no frying pans, no safe that she told me was there, no furniture on the balcony and an extremely crappy view. Oh sure, I made her buy me frying pans and a safe, which were promptly delivered on check in day, but the lounge chairs for the balcony never got there. You must be assertive yet, polite.

Supplies: – If you’re going to be renting for a few weeks or longer, you may want to bring some things with you from home. I always pack a few extra beach towels and pillow cases, and facecloths. Yes, a common thing not to find in these condos are facecloths. I bring some of my spices from home, enough soy creamer for my coffee to last the trip, rubber gloves for doing lots of dishes (since I don’t use the dishwashers – electricity) and basically, there are never enough dishes to fill a dishwasher anyway. Something else I always bring are plastic clips to keep bags that have been opened sealed and fresh, and to make use as clothespins.

Clothespins come in handy for a multitude of things, besides the fact they’re convenient for keeping bags of chips crisp. I also use them for laundry. You can hang up wet laundry and wet bathing suits on the balcony with them, secure in the fact they won’t blow away..

Recommended little town jaunts and local markets

Two little towns I recommend visiting for a few hours exploration when visiting PV are El Pitillal (pronounced P T L) and Bucerias. The beauty of these quaint little Mexican towns are they’re both within Puerto Vallarta and not far to get to.

El Pitillal is literally a 10 – minute cab ride from the hotel zone. It’s a quaint town that was once its own village but has since merged into part of Puerto Vallarta. This is a hidden gem because it’s not considered a tourist town, although many have discovered it and visit it regularly for the quality handmade products in their open-air market stores, a few quaint restaurant bars where one can get cheap drinks and fish tacos, and the non-inflated tourist prices from haircuts to food.

Bucerias is about a half hour cab ride (for $25 U.S.) or an over an hour bus ride for about a dollar to get to. It’s an old fishing village with five miles of beach stretch, cobble stone roads built by hand, one stone at a time, and a charming feel. This little town is becoming more popular with tourists as the years pass offering that ‘old world’ charm of Puerto Vallarta from 40 years ago before it became a tourist destination. Bucerias has some wonderful restaurants and beach bars and local open-air markets in the center of town. The name Bucerias, is derived from the word ‘buceo’ which means to dive, derived from the initial inhabitants who were traditional oyster fishermen who dove to catch them. Now the town is known for its friendly locals. Some tourists seeking that authentic Mexican town feel of being in Mexico are opting to spend their vacations in this sleepy little town.

Other little towns of note where tourists like to take little day tours to are: Yelapa, a traditional fishing village about 25 miles from PV, which you can only get to by boat, and Sayulita, another small village, known for its good surfing, with some interesting markets and some great beach restaurants. Some people say a lot of ‘old hippies’ have moved there for it’s more ‘artsy’ vibe.

There are also other small little towns to visit when in Puerto Vallarta. The city is growing by the year with its construction growth, ex-pats who continue to migrate there, good food, cheap prices and breathtaking sunsets. What’s not to love?

Have any of you ever been to any of these small little towns in Puerto Vallarta? If so, please share your opinion here.

My thanks to Debby for this detailed report on Puerto Vallarta – and a must read if you are heading to that resort or to any of the other popular destinations in Mexico. It is always important to check out every detail when traveling abroad with up to date recommendations and also government advisories on Covid.

About D.G. Kaye 

Debby Gies is a Canadian nonfiction/memoir author who writes under the pen name of D.G. Kaye. She was born, raised, and resides in Toronto, Canada. Kaye writes about her life experiences, matters of the heart and women’s issues.

D.G. writes to inspire others. Her writing encompasses stories taken from events she encountered in her own life, and she shares the lessons taken from them. Her sunny outlook on life developed from learning to overcome challenges in her life, and finding the upside from those situations, while practicing gratitude for all the positives.

When Kaye isn’t writing intimate memoirs, she brings her natural sense of humor into her other works. She loves to laugh and self- medicate with a daily dose of humor.

I love to tell stories that have lessons in them, and hope to empower others by sharing my own experiences. I write raw and honest about my own experiences, hoping through my writing, that others can relate and find that there is always a choice to move from a negative space, and look for the positive.


“Live Laugh Love . . . And Don’t Forget to Breathe!”

“For every kindness, there should be kindness in return. Wouldn’t that just make the world right?”

Books by D.G. Kaye

One of the reviews for Have Bags Will Travel

Lana B. 5.0 out of 5 stars Super fun travel reading Reviewed in the United States

“Have Bags, Will Travel” is a delightful read on the experiences of travel, fashion, the art of packing suitcases with the emphasis on having a good time. Author, D.G. Kaye details her days on board planes to many popular destinations and her vivacious antics with friends. She also relates her solo travels to exotic destinations with steep cliffs and too much baggage. I particularly enjoyed the details of the by-gone, romantic days aboard Wardair, and the exquisite details of vintage Las Vegas.

A consummate shopper, D.G. Kaye relates her rather humorous run-ins with customs officials. How does it feel to be singled out routinely by airline officials? A read through this humorous pages will give you the insight to these first-hand conflicts.

I would say this might be required reading for shoe connoisseurs and fashion mavens especially if they have a plane ticket in hand. Germ avoidance theory is also discussed, and it may never be possible to look at airplane bathrooms the same.

D.G. Kaye brings back the memories of best friends and blazing trips through the desert. Many readers will identify with the struggles of this stylish lady attempting to blend in to avoid a custom’s mishap. A short and super fun read, “Have Bags, Will Travel” is perfect for your next airplane ride.

Read all the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – and: Amazon UK – follow Debby: Goodreads

Connect to Debby Gies – Blog: D.G. Kaye Writer – About me: D.G. Kaye – Twitter: @pokercubster Linkedin: D.G. Kaye – Facebook: D.G. Kaye – Instagram: D.G. Kaye – Pinterest: D.G. Kaye

My thanks to Debby for sharing some of her holiday highlights and the background to this popular Mexican holiday resort..As always she loves to hear from you with comments and questions.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Weekly Round Up – 21st – 27th February 2022 – Hits 1984, Mel Torme, #Bulls #Houston, Reviews, Poetry, Podcast, Health and Humour

Welcome to the round up of posts you might have missed this week on Smorgasbord.

I don’t think anyone around the world will have missed this week’s headlines when Covid was eclipsed by the unfolding battle for the Ukraine. The courage and patriotism of the people and their president is astounding and they deserve all the support the rest of the world can provide.

It certainly makes the storms we have been facing over the last three weeks simply weather, and mother nature reminding us that we cannot contol everything in our world. But there is no malice, greed or hatred which is the dubious perogative of human nature.

Book Promotion.

Delighted to have had some lovely extracts for this new series beginnning in March and here is a reminder of how you can give your most recent book a plug by sharing a 500 word extract… All the details are in the post link below.. Look foward to hearing from you.

Share an extract from your most recent book published within the last twelve months

As always my thanks to William Price King and Debby Gies for sharing their music and humour with us this week.. Debby is back on Monday with her travel column which is part two of Puerto Vallarta, William is here Tuesday for the Breakfast Show and Friday with the final part of the Mel Torme story.

Carol Taylor is here on Wednesday with our column, cook from scratch to prevent deficiency. This week it is Vitamin B5. If you have missed any of Carol’s post on her own blog this week you can catch up in her round up.

Australian Cuisine, Porcini Mushrooms, Home cooked rotisserie Chicken, and Saturday Snippets all about tongues.

On with the show…..

The Breakfast Show with William Price King and Sally Cronin – Chart Hits 1989 Part One – Simply Red, Janet Jackson, The Bangles, Cher

– William Price King meets the Jazz Icons – Mel Torme – The 1960s

Tales from the Garden – Little Girl Lost

1984 – A Year of Two Halves – Tring and USA Opportunity

1985 Part One – Houston Arrival, TGI Friday’s, New Apartment, New Friends

Chesebro’s Tuesday Weekly Challenge – Butterfly Cinquain – Metamorphasis

Food Therapy Rewind – The pungent defenders Onions and Garlic

#Contemporary #Romance – Maggie’s Way by Linda Bradley

#Suspense #Thriller Cold Dark Night: Legends of Madeira by Joan Hall

#Mystery #Crime #Family – Brother of Interest by Karina Bartow

New Book on the Shelves #Preorder #Crime – Twisted Vendetta (Foxy Mysteries Book 4) by Fiona Tarr

Personal Recommendations – #Poetry Annette Rochelle Aben, #Family Sagas Judith Barrow, #Fantasy Richard Dee

Personal Recommendations – #Thriller Mark Bierman, #Family Lisette Brodey, #UrbanFantasy Mae Clair

Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Sinatra and Dentists

– Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Driving and a moral story


Thanks very much for dropping in today and I hope you will join me again next week.. Sally

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Memories, Music and Movies – 1985 Part One – Houston Arrival, TGI Friday’s, New Apartment, New Friends by Sally Cronin

I cannot remember a time when music and movies where not a part of my life.

1985 – Houston Arrival  – TGI Friday’s – New Appartment – New Friends

If you read  last week’s post you will know that we had a bit of a shock in the November when David was made redundant. My small part-time job was not sufficient so we both started looking for new options. However, before we could get serious David was telephoned by a former boss and asked if you would like to go to Houston in Texas for two years in a sales role, selling optical fibre to US companies.

We leapt at the chance and despite only being in our little house for six months we hurriedly organised a family Christmas and then put all our belongings into storage for two years paid for by the company. The house was put up for sale and thankfully went quickly so that we were not paying a huge mortgage whilst abroad.

We packed two moderate suitcases each and boarded the eleven hour flight from London to Houston, arriving late at night. The company had booked us into the Marriott at Greenspoint and David decided that I could drive (on the right hand side of the road for the first time) whilst he navigated. Nobody told us that Green’s Road was about 25 miles long.

Thankfully I managed to get us there in one piece and we checked in and collapsed into bed absolutely exhausted.

The next morning we had our first taste of Texas hospitality in TGI Friday’s which was across from the hotel in the largest shopping Mall that I had ever seen (heaven). We have been fans of the food chain ever since including in the UK and I will never forget our waiter Jesus (pronounced Hesus) and his impeccable service.

David was in at the deep end and after one day in the local office for the company was off on a plane to the west coast whilst I was on a mission to find a temporary apartment. We then planned to take our time looking for just the right place to live for the next two years and luckily I found a very nice one-bed studio close by.

I moved all our stuff across and acquainted myself with the local supermarkets and was astonished by the abundance of fresh produce. It was amazing but one thing puzzled me. There were some horses tied up outside and there were cowboys walking around in full regalia including guns in holsters. Now I had been brought up on Westerns and I like nothing better than seeing a real life good-looking cowboy but I had assumed that those days were behind us. Eventually I asked a cashier why they were around and was told it was Rodeo Week… Okay then!

After viewing a number of apartment complexes we settled on a two bedroom home in The Chancellor Apartments in Parramatta Lane off I-45 and that turned out to be a fantastic decision. Here is David in front of our apartment complex looking very pleased with himself.

The people we met in the complex were amazingly friendly and adopted us immediately leading to the establishment of a regular round of pool parties and outings. Here we are by the pool which was our popular weekend hangout and eventually after some training, I was very honoured to be included in the guy water volley ball team.. My nickname was Sledgehammer!

Weekends were also for Pappasito’s Mexican restaurant where they accommodated our large number by cordoning off the back part of the floor

Next week some of our travels in 1985 across America, visitors and a close call with some very miffed fireants.

The music in the US at the time was slightly different to the UK charts but there were still the usual artists that dominated the charts. David was away quite a bit with his job and to be honest it took me a while to get the hang of cable television. I was used to three main channels at the time and forty left me bemused. So I watched MTV and listened to the local music radio stations and quickly got into a little country. Here are some of the hits of that year.

Wham and George MichaelCareless Whisper, Madonna Like a Virgin, Foreigner I Want To Know What Love Is, Paul YoungEverytime You Go Away, StarshipWe Built This City, Huey Lewis and the News The Power of Love, Whitney HoustonSaving All My Love For You, USA for AfricaWe Are The World, Phil CollinsOne More Night, The Pointer Sisters Neutron Dance, Billy Ocean Suddenly, Tina Turner – Better Be Good To Me and the one I am going to feature today. Something to bring some summer back into your lives. Katrina and the Waves Walking on Sunshine.

David was home most weekends and we headed out to the movies which of course were usually released several months before the UK. This enabled me to send back reviews in my weekly letters to home.

Top at the Box Office were Back to the Future, The Breakfast Club, Witness, The Color Purple, Rambo First Blood Part Two and RockyIV. Cocoon , Commando, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Mask and an all time favourite of mine and tissue manufacturers.. Out of Africa. Here is the theme from this wonderful film


Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will join me again next week for 1985 part two..

Smorgasbord Book Reviews – #Suspense #Thriller Cold Dark Night: Legends of Madeira by Joan Hall

Delighted to share my review for the suspense thriller by Joan Hall – Cold Dark Night: Legends of Madeira

About the book

New husband, new house, new town… and a new mystery to solve.

Tami Montgomery thought her police chief husband was going to be the only investigator in the family when she gave up her journalism career and moved with him to Madeira, New Mexico.

But after the historical society asks her to write stories for a book celebrating the town’s one-hundred fiftieth year, she becomes embroiled in a new mystery. If she can’t solve this one, she could lose everything. Her research uncovers a spate of untimely deaths of local law enforcement officials. Further digging reveals a common link—they all lived in the house she and Jason now share.

Tami isn’t a superstitious person, but the circumstances are too similar for coincidence. Then she unearths an even more disturbing pattern. And if history repeats itself, Jason will be the next to die.

My review for the book February 26th 2022

I really enjoyed House of Sorrows, the prequel to this series which really set the scene for this book and left me anticipating the follow up to an intriguing mystery.

It can be very challenging to settle in a new home, in a town steeped in history with families who go back generations. Outsiders are not always welcome, especially if they start digging around in events that some would prefer left well alone.

It doesn’t help when your husband is the chief of police, a position that appears to have been more dangerous than a small town with low crime rates might expect. Or that you live in a house with some ominous links to chilling events of the last 100 years.

Thankfully there is a welcome from well-meaning neighbours and a cat seeking companionship, although it is clear that some are also carrying heavy burdens from the past.

The author has created wonderful characters and a gripping storyline that will draw you in as you engage with the lead characters in the drama.

The story time shifts through the decades, offering nuggets of information that might or might not lead to solving the mysterious death of so many law enforcement officers. Tami has a need to discover the truth as her fears for her husband in his new role become more insistent with each passing day.

It is a race against time and Tami and those she trusts find themselves hurtling towards a precipice with surprise discoveries and secrets revealed that will shock the small town to its core.

A recommended read

Head over to read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon US And: Amazon UK

Also by Joan Hall

Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon US – And: Amazon UK – Read other reviews and follow Joan: Goodreads – Website: Joan Hall – Blog: Joan Hall – BookBub: Joan Hall – Facebook: Joan Hall Writes – Twitter: @JoanHallWrites

About Joan Hall

Joan Hall has always enjoyed reading or listening to stories about inexplicable events, so it’s not surprising she writes mystery and romantic suspense. A lover of classic rock music, songs often serve as the inspiration for her books.

When she’s not writing, Joan likes to observe the night skies, explore old cemeteries, and learn about legends and folklore. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats.


Thanks for dropping in today and I hope you will be leaving with some books.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – Memories, Music and Movies – 1984 – A Year of Two Halves – Tring and USA Opportunity by Sally Cronin

I cannot remember a time when music and movies where not a part of my life.

A Year of Two Halves – Tring and USA Opportunity

1984 turned out to be a year of two halves. As we headed into 1984 we both were settled into our jobs. I was doing more travelling with responsibility for two more shops in York and Nottingham as well as the retail marketing side of the crystal company in Ulverston. I was away a fair bit of the time but so was David as his career began to move towards the new entertainment possibilities of cable television. However we did manage to head off to Wales from time to time and headed up some of the amazing tracks on Snowdon.

One of David’s previous bosses took over the cable TV division and asked him to move with him. This meant a house move as well and we put our house in Southport on the market. With little equity and higher house prices further south in Tring, Hertfordshire we needed to downsize and bought a small three-bedroomed semi-detached house.

We were closer to my family in Portsmouth and so visits home were more frequent. I found myself a part-time job locally with the editor and owner of the Friesian Breeder’s Handbook. A farmer’s ‘must have’ if he kept a dairy herd of these beautiful black and white cows.

As you can imagine quite a change from retail marketing manager for cut class crystal but I soon settled into selling advertising, editing copy and on occasion accompanying my boss to the large agricultural shows around the country.

I really enjoyed these shows but this is where my retail experience took a slight change of direction. As well as running the handbook, my boss was also a broker for bull semen. Whilst he would be around the show taking photographs for the next edition and drumming up advertising, I as set up with a table in a stall between two of the exhibition Friesian dairy cows.

I had a front row seat and insight into the grooming required to prepare a supersized momma ready for the show ring, including liberal baby powdering of already creamy coloured udders. Pristine and pampered they would await their turn to be led away by the proud owner. Unfortunately, from time to time I also had a front row seat when nature took its course and the udders became less than creamy white!

If that was not educational enough; I also was expected to sell a certain number of straws of bull semen to the farmers that drifted in and out of this fragrant bower. I had some very interesting discussions with prospective buyers as we perused the stud book and discussed the attributes of each of the macho looking specimens pictured. I actually could be quite persuasive and I like to think that 30 odd years later there are some fine herds of Friesians who are the result of my matchmaking!

As you can imagine this led to some very interesting dinner party conversations and included one with my father who asked if I collected the samples myself! Thankfully that was done by more experienced hands than me and the straws were safely frozen and stored in a laboratory awaiting my order to send onto to the new owner. Not sure how impressed the cows were at this rather truncated mating ritual but they probably dreaded seeing he vet arrive with his cool bag and rolling up his sleeves.

As you can imagine I loved my job! However, fate was to take another hand in our lives and the new unit that my husband had moved to join was suddenly closed by the parent company leaving David redundant. With a large mortgage and not much coming in from my part-time job, we were facing a bleak run up to Christmas. One night the phone rang whilst I was in the bath. I heard mumbled talking and David was on the phone for several minutes. He then shouted up the stairs. ‘Do you want to go to Texas?’

His previous boss had offered him two years in Houston selling optical fibre to the telecommunications industry. Of course we said ‘Yes’ in a nanosecond.

We hurriedly put the house on the market, arranged to put our furniture in store for two years, piled both David’s parents, his uncle, my parents, and my brother in to our little house for a last snowy Christmas. We had a ball with two barrels of homemade beer, good wine and a cramped turkey dinner followed by charades. Not everyone got into the spirit of playing charades… especially when my mother tried to convey the film The Kiss…

The first week in January we packed two suitcases each and boarded a flight to Houston.

Of course throughout 1984 there was some great music that I listened to in the car on my travels around the country and this included Frankie Goes To Hollywood with a couple of songs in the chart with Relax and Two Tribes, Stevie Wonder I just Called To Say I Loved You, George Michael and Careless Whisper, Wham Freedom and Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, Queen – I Want To Break Free, Nik Kershaw I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me, Cyndi Lauper with Girls Just Want To Have Fun. A film that year had also produced a hit for Phil Collins – from Against All Odds, which is a great film if you have not watched, and the track Take A Look At Me Now.

The other stand out films of the year included Indiana Jones, The Terminator, The Karate Kid, Amadeus, Romancing the Stone, The Bounty, This is Spinal Tap,The Killing Fields, Places in the Heart, A Passage to India and that music classic Footloose. Since I still have Footloose on my play list 31 years later.. here is the Kenny Loggins original courtesy of theTwinCitiesWeddingDJs


Thanks for dropping in and I hope you enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane.. I have shared all the letters I wrote from Houston, Texas over the two years we lived there, but I have summarised 1985 and 1986 for this series.. I hope you will join me next time.

Smorgasbord Poetry – Colleen Chesebro’s Tuesday Weekly Challenge – Butterfly Cinquain – Metamorphasis by Sally Cronin

This week for Colleen Chesebro’s TANKATUESDAY Weekly POETRY CHALLENGE NO. 262, it is a THEMEPROMPT – The theme is Transitions.…. and I have chosen to create a butterfly cinquain with the title Metamorphasis

Image by smarko from Pixabay


camouflaged to conceal
their tempting plump juvenile forms
to morph into silken cocoons
for metamorphasis
as a bewinged

©Sally Cronin

My latest book is a collection of poetry and was published in July 2021 and here is a recent review.

One of the reviews for the collection 

You can find all my books and buy links: Sally’s Books and Reviews 2022


Thanks for dropping by and I hope you have enjoyed the poem.. thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Music Column 2022 – William Price King meets the Jazz Icons – Mel Torme – The 1960s

It is eight years since William Price King joined Smorgasbord to share music across the genres. It is six years since we have featured the icons and delighted to showcase them again in 2022.

For over 30 years William Price King has been paying his tribute to two musicians who have influenced not just musicians, but all of us as we listened to their music. Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. Certainly many love stories began and sometimes ended whilst dancing to their music. In the next two features on the Jazz greats, William will be sharing some of their most iconic music, the musicians who influenced their passion for music and the highs and lows of their careers and personal lives.

Part four of the series on the life and music of Mel Tormé and it is becoming clear that this talented musician, songwriter and performer, struggles to find his niche in the ever changing music industry. As mentioned in the first part of the series, Mel felt that he had been born just a decade too late to really take full advantage of the Jazz and Big Band Era, which produced the music that he loved to both write and perform. If the 50s had produced a shift in the taste in the fans for popular music, the 60s were going to be even more challenging for an artist such as Mel. It was a time of compromise, recording singles and albums to fit in with the leading label’s demands for popular music, to support his live performances of the music he really loved.

We move into the 60s with Mel Tormé struggling to find a record label who will allow him to release the music that is his passion… Jazz. He is now with Atlantic Records who very clearly want him to produce pop music, and eventually a compromise was made with another live album, Mel Tormé at the Red Hill in March of 1962. However he bowed to pressure from the management and released the more current number ‘Comin’ Home Baby’ in the September.

The song was written by the jazz lyricist Bob Dorough and bass player Ben Tucker. The song got Mel into the top 40 in both the US and UK and also earned him his first two Grammy nominations for Best Solo Performance, Male and Best Rhythm & Blues Recording. Whilst a terrific achievement for any artist Mel still felt disappointed that he was not being recognised as a jazz performer. To capitalise on this nomination, Atlantic rushed out the LP of the same name but it did not enter the charts.

What was a little bit more heartening for Mel was the comment made by jazz and gospel singer Ethel Waters to say that “Tormé is the only white man who sings with the soul of a black man.”

In 1963 Mel began a collaboration with The Judy Garland Show as musical director working closely on set with Judy and writing songs and musical arrangements combined with the occasional guest appearance. The show itself was in trouble from the beginning and Judy Garland’s unpredictability due to her personal issues resulted in a roller-coaster ride of triumphs and disasters in the few months that the show aired.

The personal relationship between Mel and Judy was not a harmonious one and he was fired shortly before the series itself was cancelled. Mel wrote a book after Judy Garland’s death “The Other Side of the Rainbow with Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol”. It was clearly an unhappy time for the aging actress and singer as her star faded and Mel related the behind-the-scenes dramas that he witnessed. Whilst not popular with Judy’s legions of fans and family, after a rewrite of the introduction to the book to mollify their criticisms, Mel paid tribute to the fact that Judy could still pull out all the stops when performing.

Free to return to live performing from late 1964, Mel signed to Columbia Records and as well as some singles he cut the album That’s All. But, as at Atlantic Records, he was being pressurised to produce more contemporary/pop/rock songs. In 1966 his Album Right Now was released and included some of his recent hits such asHomeward Bound’, and ‘Red Rubber Ball’. Mel made the Easy Listening chart in the summer of 1967 with ‘Lovers Roulette but by the end of the year he was off the label.  Here is Red Rubber Ball written by Paul Simon and Bruce Woodley

Mel had been appearing in films over the last few years, including playing himself in The Patsy and this was followed by A Man Called Adam. He also began to be seen more on the small screen as well as writing episodes and guesting in popular series such as Run for Your Life and The Virginian.

Mel signed with Liberty Records in early 1968 and on the wave of public enthusiasm for the film Bonnie and Clyde that had been released in 1967, he wrote the original title track A Day in the Life of Bonnie and Clyde’. With the exception of this track, the album mostly consists of covers of popular songs of the late 1920s and early 1930s, around the period when the real-life Bonnie and Clyde were committing their bank robberies.

By 1969 Mel was back with Capitol Records and cut two more albums,A Time for Us’ and Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head’. ‘A Time for Us’ was the love theme from Romeo & Juliet that had been an instrumental arranged by Henry Mancini and it was to become one of the most romantic ballads of the late 1960s. Here is the title track from Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head. Mel Tormé – Topic

Mel was now entering the 1970s and he would be out of the music charts for some time although he would still be in the public eye with his work in television and film and with his live performances.

Additional sources:
Mel Torme biography MTV

William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.

His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.

While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.

Blog– IMPROVISATION William Price King on Tumblr – Buy William’s music: William Price King iTunes – FacebookWilliam Price King – Twitter@wpkofficial
Regular Venue – Cave Wilson


Thank you for dropping and as always William would love to receive your feedback… thanks Sally.

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine Podcast – Tales from the Garden – Little Girl Lost by Sally Cronin

Over the coming weeks I will be sharing the stories from Tales from the Garden which I hope you will enjoy in audio

Tales from the Garden is a collection of short stories I wrote in tribute to our home in the mountains to the north of Madrid where we lived from 1999 to 2016. We inherited a number of statues from the previous owners that were too big to take with them, and I also found some discarded around the garden. Perfect characters for stories, some of whom moved on with us to Ireland and appeared in Tales from the Irish Garden.

About Tales from the Garden

Tales from the Garden reveals the secrets that are hidden beneath hedges and trees. You will discover what really happens at night as you sleep unaware in your bed. Stone statues and those hidden worlds within the earth are about to share their stories. The guardians who have kept the sanctuary safe for over fifty years will allow you to peek behind the scenes of this magical place. They will take you on a journey through time and expand your horizons as they transport you to the land of fairies, butterflies and lost souls who have found a home here.

This week a beloved statue of a fairy princess joins the other guardians of the magic garden.


I hope you have enjoyed the story and will join me again for another story from the magic garden.

You can find out more about my books and reviews: Sally’s Books and Reviews

Smorgasbord Laughter is the Best Medicine – Hosts Debby Gies and Sally Cronin – Driving and a moral story

Firstly, some funnies from Debby Gies and her neighbour Marilyn who has donated for our enjoyment followed by some jokes from Sally.

D.G. Writes is where you will find an archive full of wonderful posts across several subjects including writing tips, social issues and book reviews.


My thanks to Debby and her neighbour Marilyn for expert foraging…

D. G. Kaye – Buy: Amazon US And: Amazon UK Blog: D.G. WritesGoodreads: D.G. Kaye on Goodreads – Twitter: @pokercubster

Check out Debby’s latest Travel Column: Puerto Vallarta Part One

Now for a joke from Sally

Words of Wisdom – Never, EVER be late

A Priest was being honored at his retirement dinner after 25 years in the parish. A leading local politician and member of the congregation was chosen to make the presentation and to give a little speech at the dinner.

However, he was delayed, so the Priest decided to say his own few words while they waited:

‘I got my first impression of the parish from the first confession I heard here. I thought I had been assigned to a terrible place. The very first person who entered my confessional told me he had stolen a television set and, when questioned by the police, was able to lie his way out of it. He had stolen money from his parents, embezzled from his employer, had an affair with his boss’s wife, and taken illegal drugs. I was appalled. But as the days went on I learned that my people were not all like that and I had, indeed, come to a fine parish full of good and loving people.’…

Just as the Priest finished his talk, the politician arrived full of apologies at being late. He immediately began to make the presentation and gave his talk:

‘I’ll never forget the first day our parish Priest arrived,’ said the politician. ‘In fact, I had the honour of being the first person to go to him for confession.’

Moral : Never, Never, Never Be Late!

Thank you for joining us today and we hope you are leaving with a smile on your face.. Debby and Sally.